September 9th, 2009
05:46 PM ET
14 years ago

Obama: 'If you misrepresent what's in the plan, we will call you out'

The White House has released excerpts of President Obama's address to Congress tonight:


I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last. It has now been nearly a century since Theodore Roosevelt first called for health care reform. And ever since, nearly every President and Congress, whether Democrat or Republican, has attempted to meet this challenge in some way. A bill for comprehensive health reform was first introduced by John Dingell Sr. in 1943. Sixty-five years later, his son continues to introduce that same bill at the beginning of each session.

Our collective failure to meet this challenge – year after year, decade after decade – has led us to a breaking point. Everyone understands the extraordinary hardships that are placed on the uninsured, who live every day just one accident or illness away from bankruptcy. These are not primarily people on welfare. These are middle-class Americans. Some can't get insurance on the job. Others are self-employed, and can't afford it, since buying insurance on your own costs you three times as much as the coverage you get from your employer. Many other Americans who are willing and able to pay are still denied insurance due to previous illnesses or conditions that insurance companies decide are too risky or expensive to cover.


During that time, we have seen Washington at its best and its worst.

We have seen many in this chamber work tirelessly for the better part of this year to offer thoughtful ideas about how to achieve reform. Of the five committees asked to develop bills, four have completed their work, and the Senate Finance Committee announced today that it will move forward next week. That has never happened before. Our overall efforts have been supported by an unprecedented coalition of doctors and nurses; hospitals, seniors' groups and even drug companies – many of whom opposed reform in the past. And there is agreement in this chamber on about eighty percent of what needs to be done, putting us closer to the goal of reform than we have ever been.

But what we have also seen in these last months is the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have toward their own government. Instead of honest debate, we have seen scare tactics. Some have dug into unyielding ideological camps that offer no hope of compromise. Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short-term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long-term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned.

Well the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care.

The plan I'm announcing tonight would meet three basic goals:

It will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance. It will provide insurance to those who don't. And it will slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government. It's a plan that asks everyone to take responsibility for meeting this challenge – not just government and insurance companies, but employers and individuals. And it's a plan that incorporates ideas from Senators and Congressmen; from Democrats and Republicans – and yes, from some of my opponents in both the primary and general election.


Here are the details that every American needs to know about this plan:

First, if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, Medicare, Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have. Let me repeat this: nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.

What this plan will do is to make the insurance you have work better for you. Under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it most. They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. We will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they get sick. And insurance companies will be required to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies – because there's no reason we shouldn't be catching diseases like breast cancer and colon cancer before they get worse. That makes sense, it saves money, and it saves lives.

That's what Americans who have health insurance can expect from this plan – more security and stability.

Now, if you're one of the tens of millions of Americans who don't currently have health insurance, the second part of this plan will finally offer you quality, affordable choices. If you lose your job or change your job, you will be able to get coverage. If you strike out on your own and start a small business, you will be able to get coverage. We will do this by creating a new insurance exchange – a marketplace where individuals and small businesses will be able to shop for health insurance at competitive prices. Insurance companies will have an incentive to participate in this exchange because it lets them compete for millions of new customers. As one big group, these customers will have greater leverage to bargain with the insurance companies for better prices and quality coverage. This is how large companies and government employees get affordable insurance. It's how everyone in this Congress gets affordable insurance. And it's time to give every American the same opportunity that we've given ourselves.


This is the plan I'm proposing. It's a plan that incorporates ideas from many of the people in this room tonight – Democrats and Republicans. And I will continue to seek common ground in the weeks ahead. If you come to me with a serious set of proposals, I will be there to listen. My door is always open.

But know this: I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than improve it. I will not stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent what's in the plan, we will call you out. And I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time. Not now.

Everyone in this room knows what will happen if we do nothing. Our deficit will grow. More families will go bankrupt. More businesses will close. More Americans will lose their coverage when they are sick and need it most. And more will die as a result. We know these things to be true.

That is why we cannot fail. Because there are too many Americans counting on us to succeed – the ones who suffer silently, and the ones who shared their stories with us at town hall meetings, in emails, and in letters.


Filed under: Health care • Popular Posts • President Obama
soundoff (344 Responses)
  1. JFK

    What a bunch of malarky. Half truths and spin. He hasn't worked in a bipartisan way at all. Has refused to meet with the GOP on this issue sine APRIL. This is ridicluous. He's good at making speeches but has shown terrible leadership on this. Still refuses to explain who is going to pay for this or how it is going to be paid for. This proposal deserves to fail. Force the politicians to come up with a fair and open propsal that includes a plan to pay for it. We don't need another big govt program from washington that will not work. More govt is not the answer here.

    September 9, 2009 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  2. Michael

    Right... I admit, everything Obama has said sounds great. The problem lies in the fact that all one has to do is READ THE BILL to find pages and pages that completely contradict what he is claiming. Unless there is some new bill that we haven't read yet... if there is, if they can produce a clearly-written bill that does not have the kind of horrors written into it that the current one does, THEN I would be fine with it. But what the President claims in this speech does NOT jibe with what is in the text of the bill. Sorry guys, read it for yourself and see.

    September 9, 2009 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  3. Bill Herod

    If the presidents plan is so urgent then why will it not take place until 2013 ! If you believe what he is saying then he will let alot of people die over the next three years until his program kicks in? He still doesn't get into the specifics and talks in generalties. He is just saying the right things to make us feel good. He doesn't address how anything will be paid for. He doesn't address how-if millions of more people are covered-where are we going to get the doctors to treat these people?

    He should 1.) Address tort reform which will lower medical costs 2.) Champion for lower perscription prices .

    September 9, 2009 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  4. David

    That is a great proposal. It meets the three basic requirements: "It will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance. It will provide insurance to those who don't. And it will slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government." Tonight will be interesting.

    September 9, 2009 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    This is the man I voted for!!!!!!! FIRE UM UP!!!!!

    September 9, 2009 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  6. Ken Roberts

    I agree, Let's get this done. Tort reform, Medical savings accounts, portabilty of coverage and being able to buy coverage from any state.
    uh, that is what he said right? I've heard that somewhere and since "we" know that the republicans haven't come up with any plan, it must be the democrats.......right?

    September 9, 2009 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  7. Sceptic

    Is this the audacity of hope? "If you misrepresent what's in my plan, I'll call you out"

    What about Obama's misrepresentations. First lie, that government can do this for $1trillion. Has he checked out Medicare or Medicaid? They have cost exponentually more than advertised. Medicare and Social Security are technically insolvent and he says that covering 50 million more won't add to the deficit? Do the math, we can't sustain Social Security and Medicare at the current rate and he wants to add this and trillions for Cap and Trade. His pork give away stimulus was a bust because much of it was directed at poor people. Poor people don't create jobs and neither does the Government. When the Dems go to well again to soak the rich, they will find a lot fewer of them sticking around. He is a Marxist to the core and does not fundamentally understand free market economics. God help us.

    September 9, 2009 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  8. Peter

    If you buy in to the Obama Socialist Crap, you should change the Kool Aid you're drinking. This is all smoke and mirrors. Its the beginnings of Socialism, Control of more of YOUR life by the Government. Obama is a Radical Racist Socialist PIG...

    September 9, 2009 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  9. Pam

    "Everyone in this room knows what will happen if we do nothing. Our deficit will grow. More families will go bankrupt. More businesses will close. More Americans will lose their coverage when they are sick and need it most. And more will die as a result. We know these things to be true."

    But it won't take effect until after the election in 2012 because I want to be re-elected. So if you go bankrupt or lose your job or your coverage or die before then, well, sorry . . .

    September 9, 2009 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  10. john

    He is a good speech reader, but when has he ever stuck to his word? Why has he left Republicans out of the loop and meetings since April??? I dont trust this guy for a minute.
    No koolade for me!!!!!

    September 9, 2009 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  11. John F

    How funny .... Obama has chanted that the Republicans have offered no plan. Yet what is noted above is almost exactly what Sen. McCain's office replied to me TWO MONTHS AGO when I emailed him about my concerns for health care.

    And the great thing ... NONE OF THIS SHOULD COST MUCH!! Well .. not completely true. Insurance rates will go up as insurance companies now have to cover those they used to toss out, but I can live with that. That is competition, a level playing field. Some taxes to help subsidize those that can't afford health insurance. But I don't have as much of an issue with that as I do a government run health care system.

    Amazing what happens when Obama puts aside his ideological diatribes and works in a partisan way.

    Now .. if only he can find a way to lower health care costs. None of the measures in the bill attack medical provider costs. Why did my broken ankle end up with medical bills totaling over $65,000??? There, Mr. Obama, is your rising costs. Instead of a cast and being sent home as I would have gotten 30 years ago, I got a plate and two night hospital stay. Plus several months of physical therapy. As health care as gotten better, it has gotten more expensive. I probably won't have many mobility issues in a year, where 30 years ago I probably would have had to use a cane, or worse, the rest of my life.

    Our higher mortality rates for cancer and such show the true nature of the US health care system. We try harder, and it just costs more.

    September 9, 2009 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  12. Chuck

    Only people that want something for nothing will support this president. Those of us who are taking care of our own families do not want OBAMA forcing us into a Government run healthcare program. Let them run healthcare, yeah like they have run Medicare / Social security and other programs into the ground.

    September 9, 2009 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  13. CRob

    Not seeing much change here. The AHIP already agreed to guarantee issue and no pre-x if the President mandates coverage. I dont like the exchange, could get interesting with current state mandates, but I truly believe it is a step in the right direction. This package is very similar to the current one that Baucus proposed with a few added things. But still no Tort reform. Mr. President, you could have done more, but im glad you are staying simple.

    September 9, 2009 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  14. philadelphia

    If you all believe this load of crap, please go get an education. He is lying through his teeth and only doing this to please the politicians and lobbyists who got him into office. THIS IS NOT REAL people.

    September 9, 2009 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  15. Ader

    Good luck with this. As is always the case with President Obama, its not what he says, its what he does not say. The devil is in the details and he has no details. Just more of the same, blame the republicans. The last time I checked the democrats controlled congress and the white house.

    September 9, 2009 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  16. Tommy Boy

    Gad, who wrote that speech for him. He needs to hire a new staff. He could have had it in the bag tonight. Just lay out a plan, in detail, with the numbers. This is what it will do, this is how we will do it, this is what it will cost. This is what it will accomplish. Now lets do it.
    Instead we get more of the Obama road show. Scare-tactics and us-against-them. The same cr@p that got everybody against the plan in the first place at all the town halls. Guy is clueless. He really is an empty suit.
    He totally blew it. His Health Care reform plan just died.

    September 9, 2009 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  17. Crawford

    Actually, in May the Republicans were told by the WH that the WH did not want to meet with them to discuss health care. So the Republicans have been cut out of this work by the WH.

    September 9, 2009 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  18. John W

    Opposition is raised with deficit spending,bureaucratic control etc. The public option already exists with Medicare and Medicaid. Yes costs need
    controlled. but the status quo isn't acceptable. Heatlh care is not like any other consumer good. Economic arguments aren't comparable with consumer health choices and say buying a refrigerator.

    September 9, 2009 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  19. linda from south dakota

    toomany americans have been "buffaloed" witht eh past admistration,, so listen to tonights speech with an open mind and take it all in,, im watching for sure,,,,,, hes doin good,,,,,,, listen,,, do not be swayed by what republicans say,, they dont want to lose they "candy" so they are against this,, insurance companys will NEVER go down,, they are way over the limits now!!!.. remember u can keep your current insurance,,,,,,,,

    September 9, 2009 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  20. Sandy

    "If only the GOP would play ball and at least MEET with the President to talk about this.

    To date they won't even do that!"

    That is idiotic! The president will not meet with the Republicans–not the other way around! He doesn't need the Republicans to pass this mess. He just wants to blame them. To say that they don't have a plan is incorrect. The dems are not willing to listen to the Republican ideas.

    September 9, 2009 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  21. roddog

    To legitimately call anyone out you would have to read and comprehend the plan. Its obvious by the months of speeches that say nothing that the president hasn't read nor comprehended HR3200. Its obvious from the speech above he still hasn't. He just wants his pet project passed (and he is not going to take no stupid American people telling him no). Its amazing how these legislators like Pelosi and Reid still yammer on for this despite extreme public outcry against it and dive bombing poll numbers. They need to remember they serve us not themselves and we are saying NO to this usurpation of our liberty, this intrusion into our private lives. Why on earth would I buy my own health insurance and pay, through taxes, for the government plan (competition my behind)? The only reason the deficit will rise due to health care is that the idiots in congress stuck their hands in our health care system via Medicare/Medicaid and can't manage or pay for it. These buffoons raise our health care costs by paying our providers less than cost and that difference is passed on to those of us who aren't on their crappy insurance. And yes, Medicare denies coverage for various procedures and devices. Hell they require you to liquidate all you have to go into end of life care, a nursing home, or assisted living. There is a little fact or two the president won't put in his speech tonight about how good government is at providing health care and why it should have its fingers in it. He said it himself...UPS and FedEx are great its the Post Office that has problems...hello...there he is admitting this will be a mess.

    Try this one on Mr. Obama...where in the constitution do you have the ability to provide this? Hint: its not the general welfare clause as that was explained away in the Federalist Papers.

    September 9, 2009 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  22. eleanor fitzgerald

    All over the country, there are municipalities and states with public plans for their state and municipal employees.. What if all these communities could buy into a national public option plan with a single payer? Wouldn't that create efficiencies and cost savings that would make it possible to deliver excellent health coverage to police, firemen, teachers, and other municipal employees in public service. I hope everyone else who either cannot afford private insurance or is dissatisfied with the private plans offered by their employer would also have the "public option."

    September 9, 2009 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  23. David

    The concept is nice, but how is it possible to promise all this with no limit? How will it be paid for .. lowering pay to medical employees? Will we just make insurance companies go under and move people to the public option? We must see how this is financially feasible for all parties affected. No one should agree change without the facts of how this will be accomplished and what will be affected. I want healthcare reform, but ... I would like to hear the financial facts and effects please.

    September 9, 2009 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  24. Bob in NC Major USMC (Ret.)

    1. Well the time for bickering is over – oh, now you'll let Republician Leadership into the White House to discuss this – you have not invited them in since April 2009.
    2. The time for games has passed – Okay, so you'll finally provide some details which is always lacking in everything else you present.
    3. Now is the season for action – no, not yet – not until we see a reasonable plan.
    4. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care – Okay, this sounds like a) No public option as no private business – of ANY KIND – can compete with Government. b) Tort reform c) Being able to buy insurance across state borders.

    September 9, 2009 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  25. Robbie Subh

    Take Republicans out of the equation. Democrats can pass it without Republicans and will own it. Democrats, own it. Do not blame Republicans.

    September 9, 2009 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
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